Sharp pain from the orc’s arrow shot through
Aragorn's mind as the tip embedded itself in his right shoulder.
The force of the weapon threw him off balance and he felt his feet slip
out from underneath him.
Fear wrapped itself around his heart and squeezed
all thought from his mind as he found himself tumbling over the
falls. The water bore him to the foot of the chasm and forced him
to the bottom of the lake. His face was pressed into the pebbled
sandy floor and, before he could get his hands underneath him, he was
dragged backwards as the water rolled him closer to the granite cliffs.
Trying to swim against the current was impossible
and Aragorn couldn’t tell which way was up in his watery prison.
The tumult of the falls roared in his ears and he was smashed against
the cliff side before being drug along its length. The gritty
rock easily bit through his tunic and dug into his skin. He
hadn’t the breath to cry out and in fear he started to panic.
Pressing his feet against the stone wall, he pushed off in an attempt
to clear the cliff and gain the surface.
As he struggled against the current and the deep
burning in his lungs, he was carried backwards once again towards the
granite cliff. He had to surface and it had to be soon or he
would die down here. He clawed at the water, heading, in his
confused state, to what he thought was up but the waves swirled around
him oddly and he was rolled off balance, his head slamming hard into
the rocks behind the falls. His body went limp and he barely
clung to consciousness. If he lost that, he would have no chance
The water kept pressing him back and he thought it
odd that the rocks gave way beneath him. It felt as though the stone
wall had sunk in behind him and he was being carried inward. In
fact he had been forced into a subterranean cave and was carried by the
water through the constricted tunnel. As he tumbled wildly
between the dark rock walls, the shaft of the orc arrow snagged on an
outcropping and broke.
The pain of the arrow shaft's being ripped from his
shoulder caused him to cry out and the last of his air was
expended. Dark spots danced before his eyes as his oxygen-starved
lungs overrode his will and begged him to inhale. Water choked
his nostrils and a numbing peace stole over him as he realized with
sudden clarity that he truly was going to die.
He had almost given his will over to the idea of
death when his head broke the surface of the water around him. He
gasped in the dank air greedily, instinctively drawing the oxygen into
his lungs. His fingers touched the edges of a rocky shelf and
without conscious thought he pulled his upper body out of the water,
collapsing in the dark of the cave as consciousness fled him.
He never heard the frantic cries of his brothers or
his friend as they searched throughout the day for him.
It was well past midnight when Elladan, Elrohir and
Legolas finally made their way back to Rivendell. The three elves
stood in the courtyard, unwilling to go any further. How would
they ever be able to tell Elrond that his youngest son had been lost?
Legolas dropped wearily to the stone steps and
buried his face in his hands. His shoulders shook slightly from
the quiet sobs he had held back all day.
Elrohir knelt in front of him, pulling the unwilling
elf into his arms. "Don’t give up, Legolas, we haven’t found him
yet... we don’t know for sure..." but tears streamed down his own face,
leaving silver tracks in the moonlight.
The door to the house opened silently and Celboril
stepped out, a bucket of kitchen waste in his hands. He nearly
stumbled over the young elves on the steps, their presence giving him a
"Hey now, what is this?" He looked from one
face to another. When Legolas didn’t look up, he mistook the
elf's sorrow for pain and ran swiftly back into the house to fetch
"No, Celboril! Wait!" Elladan called after the
retreating elf but it was too late.
In moments Elrond rushed out onto the steps,
trailing his servant. "What is wrong? What is it?"
The elder elf took Elrohir's face in his hands and forced the young elf
to look at him. Legolas had stood and walked to the far side of
the courtyard, concealing himself in the shadows.
"What has happened?" Elrond glanced from one
young elf to the other, looking between the three. They were damp
and disheveled, but none of them looked obviously hurt or
injured... Then he realized that someone was missing. His
heart caught in his chest and he forced the words from his lips, "Where
"It was my fault," Elrohir whispered brokenly, his
eyes searching his father’s.
"What happened? Tell me, my sons,"
Elrond implored them softly.
Elladan spoke up as he approached Elrond. "We
were at the river head, just like we told you we were going to
be. We weren’t even hunting. Estel was fishing," a short
humorless laugh escaped the twin as he remembered the afternoon. "We
were ambushed by orcs. And we fled. We had almost escaped
by crossing the falls when Estel was hit. The force of the arrow
knocked him off the edge and he fell." Elladan's words were a
whisper as he recounted the events for his father. Swallowing the
sorrow that threatened to choke him he continued, "We looked all
afternoon and until it was too dark to see. He was not at the
bottom of the lake that we could tell and we could not find him on the
edges of the river." Elladan's eyes were huge in the moonlight
and tears spilled over them as he spoke. "I-I’ve lost him.
I am sorry, Father. I am so sorry."
Elrond nodded silently and pulled Elrohir against
him. With his keen eyes he saw the outline of the elf prince
against the far corner of the courtyard arch. He could see the
slant of the proud shoulders, his sorrow obvious as Elladan spoke.
"Celboril," Elrond called the stunned servant to his
side. "Please go start some tea, get into my medicine cabinet and
use some of the herbs that are good for resting, you know the
ones." The elf lord’s voice was soft and held the slightest
waver. He gently pressed Elrohir into the house after his
servant. "It was not your fault, my sons, do not take that burden
on yourselves. We have not found his body, Estel may yet
live. Do not lose hope."
Elrond gently touched his eldest son’s shoulders as
the young elf walked dejectedly into the house after his twin. "We will
search again tomorrow. When everyone is refreshed and the sun is
up once more. You did well. I am thankful you have returned
Legolas moved away from the arch and headed back out
towards the path away from Rivendell.
"Prince Legolas," Elrond’s deep voice stopped the
younger elf. "Come inside. It is late."
The elf halted but did not answer. His head lowered
in response but he did not turn. He stiffened slightly when
Elrond approached him and laid his hand gently between the princes'
"I cannot go inside when he is out there." The
words were so soft that only the elven hearing could catch them.
"It will do you no good to go after him
tonight. Knowing Estel, he has probably hidden himself somewhere
and even you would not be able to uncover his hiding place."
Elrond smiled softly when the prince finally turned to gaze up at him.
The tear tracks on the fair face caused the father’s
heart to clench. The elf looked all of his younger years, not
unlike his own sons. He placed his arm around the prince’s
shoulders and led the reluctant friend back to the house.
"A runner from your father passed through here this
afternoon." He needed to convey this information to Legolas and
would rather do it outside the presence of his sons - he had an inkling
the conversation would produce a fight.
"He did?" Legolas stopped and turned to the
elf lord. "What did he say?" The prince dried his eyes with the back of
his hand, staring hard into the older elf’s kind gaze.
"Your father has requested that you return home. It
is the last year of the Yèn and your people are celebrating
it. Your presence is required."
Legolas’ jaw tightened. “He didn’t request, he
commanded,” he said simply, knowing that a summons from his father was
never a request. “But I cannot think to leave now! Not with
Strider missing!” Legolas paced away from the elder elf,
thinking. It was true, the last year of every elven marked year,
which comprised about 432 of Middle-earth’s standard years, was a leap
year and it was considered a high celebration, especially in Mirkwood
were it was treated as the most important of their holy days.
There were games and dances and feasting that lasted for the entire day
and much of the following week. The royalty was always supposed
to be in attendance. It was an incredibly important holiday for
the wood-elves and the king and his son both needed to be on hand to
give the special, traditional blessing to the people of Mirkwood.
But the thought of celebrating right now made Legolas sick, how could
he ever enjoy himself when his friend was lost and more than likely
No, he would not go, he would not return until
Strider was safe or his body was found, no matter how upset his father
would be with him. He had made up his mind and turned back toward
Elrond, but the elf lord was prepared for the refusal.
He held up his hand stopping the prince, a small
smile gracing his lips. "Listen to me now, young one." His voice
was soft and Legolas stepped nearer. "My sons know this land and
their brother far better than you do. They will be doing all they
can to find him. Your presence is not necessary and your place
now is by your father’s side. It may be that you do not feel like
celebrating, but Mirkwood needs her prince through this time. It is not
forever. You can return as soon as your duty is done. You know
what this means to your people. Do not deny them or your father.
Estel would not want you to do either."
The argument gently rebuffed the prince’s objections
and he quieted immediately. It was true; Strider would not want
him to stop celebrating life just because he was lost. Still Legolas
hated the thought and his heart balked at the necessity of it.
"Our peoples are not on the best of terms yet, young
prince. The relationship that you have forged with my son has
gone a long way towad healing those broken ties. Do not let your
heart lead you in this one. If you do not return to your father,
it will not be seen well by your people that you stayed here during
their high holiday, shunning them in favor of us, no matter what the
reason. Your return to them and then your absence afterwards to
find your friend will do more good for both our peoples than if you
were to stay and help to search for Estel." Elrond walked slowly
back to the steps leading into the house. "Do you understand of what I
speak?" He turned to the prince and pushed the door to the house
open, motioning with his hand for the younger elf to join him.
"Yes, my lord. And you are correct, though my
heart would tell me otherwise and I hate that I must choose my position
and duty over my friend. Sometimes responsibility is a bitter draught
indeed." Legolas slowly walked up the steps and stopped, eyes
level with Elrond.
"That it is, my young prince, that it is. And
it does not get any easier with age." He smiled softly into the sliver
blue eyes, "Trust me." Elrond led the prince into the house and
down to the room next to Aragorn's. "I will have Celboril bring
you some tea. It will help you sleep and calm your nerves.
See that you drink it, you'll need it." He leveled a serious
stare at the elf until the prince nodded in compliance.
Elrond wearily walked back to his room. The
night had taken an awful turn and his heart was heavy with grief.
The unimaginable had happened and he was left to pick up the
pieces. He had always feared this day, but he had hoped that it
would come long after he had left for the Undying Lands. To have
to deal with his youngest son’s death now was overwhelming. It
was incredible how much he had come to love that boy, and he could not
help but feel that he must have failed him somewhere, for his heart
told him that Estel was meant for greater things and greater
struggles... that his life was important... not that it should end like
this, a pointless death taking him away so young, even for a
human. Elrond sat down on the edge of his bed and let his head
rest in his hands, pressing his palms hard against his eyes to stave
off the tears. Elladan stopped in his father’s doorway. The older
elf’s shoulders shook with the sorrow that he could no longer contain
and a soft sob escaped his lips.
“Father, no.” Elladan walked quickly in and wrapped
his arms around the elf lord. “You are right, we will find
him.” Elrond nodded and allowed his son to hold him.
Celboril entered moments later, trailing Elrohir. The youngest
twin walked forward and kissed his father’s head as the elder elf
looked up at his sons.
Elrohir walked back to an overstuffed chair and
dropped heavily into it, cradling a warm mug of tea that Celboril
handed him. Elladan took the ones proffered to him and passed one
to his father.
“Sleep, my lords, and rest. Morning will find that
errant son of yours. He’s too much an elf himself to let any such
thing as a waterfall get the best of him.” The servant spoke
“True words, good Celboril, rightly spoken.”
Elrond wiped his eyes off on the sleeve of his robe and drank deeply
from the mug he held.
Elladan grabbed an extra blanket and curled up on
the floor below his brother. Elrohir’s hand dangled from the
chair’s arm and rested on his twin's head, the slight touch saying more
than any words. Elrond smiled softly as the two fell to
sleep. Estel just had to be alive, he had to be.
His last conscious thoughts were prayers carried to
Iluvatar on wings of hope, asking that his son might be brought safely
through the night and led home.
Celboril turned out the lights and left his lord’s
chamber, a deep sigh escaping him. He noticed that Legolas’ light
was still on down the hallway and moved quietly into the room to turn
it off, but the prince was not in his room. Curious, the servant
stepped next door into Estel’s room and smiled sadly. Legolas lay
on top of the ranger’s bed, with Aragorn’s old night-light burning low
in the corner.
The servant covered the sleeping prince with a soft
blanket and went to blow out the tiny light. As he approached the
shell-carved lamp, a thought occurred to him and he took the little
light instead and set it in the window, “Let him know we wait for him,”
he whispered quietly to the lamp. “Let your light show him the way
home.” Silently he left the prince to rest, he had his own
prayers to pray. He knew Iluvatar would hear them, Iluvatar
Someone was groaning and the noise was waking him
up. He realized with an odd detachment that that someone was him.
Aragorn pulled himself clear of the small
underground pool, dragging his feet up onto the shelf and pressing his
back against the rock wall. He could hear the water as it ran
through the chamber but he could see nothing. Shakily he touched
his eyes just to make sure they were, in fact, open.
His shoulder throbbed incessantly and he probed the
wound gently with his fingers. The arrowhead was embedded too far
in to remove himself, he would need help. Water dripped
into his eyes and he brushed it away. It felt strange and oddly
warm. He touched his fingers to his tongue and realized that it was not
water but blood. That was why his head hurt so badly. The
brow above his left eye was split, so he must have hit his head against
the rock walls. He remembered being slammed against the cliff and
gingerly touched the back of his head. A swollen, tender knot
attested to the fact.
The sounds of the falls reverberated in the small
cave he found himself inside. The ceiling of the hollowed area he
occupied was just inches above his head. Curious, he followed the
wall of the shelter, listening, smelling, using his other senses where
his eyes could not aide him.
Near the front of the cavern where the river pressed
in under the rocks, he noted that he could just barely make out the
image of his hand before his face. There was light somehow
filtering into the hole behind the falls. He felt the walls, his
fingers pressing into a deep fissure in the rock. He smelled
fresh air and could feel the spray of water on his face when he pressed
close to the crack. Suddenly the ranger realized where he
was. He had been forced behind the falls into a subterranean
cave, the water he felt on his face came from the falls outside and the
light he was seeing was the sun slowly rising over the mountain ridge
that held Rivendell.
Aragorn pulled away from the crack and pressed back
against the wall, allowing himself to relax for a moment. He was
cold and his body was starting to protest the abuse that it had taken
yesterday. He couldn’t remain in the cave and hope that help
would find him. He was almost positive his family would think him
dead, who would possibly know that a cave existed behind the
falls? Claustrophobic thoughts wove into his heart and mind and
the ranger concentrated on breathing slowly and evenly as he calmed
himself. He had come in under the falls, he would go out the same
Crawling to the edge of the shelf he swung his legs
down into the cold water and sat for a few moments, breathing deeply,
pulling all the oxygen he could into his lungs and expanding them as
far as possible. When he was ready, he turned and slid over the
side of the rock and eased into the underground stream. The
current was swift and threatened to drag him farther back under the
Bracing his feet on the rocks and using the rough
walls as handholds, he pulled himself to the mouth of the tunnel. With
one last deep breath he plunged under the water and began moving up the
channel towards the opening in the lake.
It was hard to see in the dark swirling waters and
his right shoulder spasmed in pain as he forced himself forward against
the current, kicking with his feet and pulling himself out, hand over
hand as he grasped the rocks around him. In seconds he was free
of the short tunnel and into the lake. The force of the falls
slammed the human against the granite cliff. He flattened out
against the rock wall and edged sideways through the pounding water.
His air supply was almost gone and it seemed that he
was no closer to the edge than when he had started. Panic flared
in Aragorn’s heart and he closed the emotion off, slowly moving along
the wall of the lake, trying to remember how far around the
hollowed-out bowl really was. He was thinking on these things to
distract himself when he realized that the water forcing him down was
lessening. Placing his feet at the bottom of the lake he pushed
himself upwards. His head broke through the surface of the water
and he gulped in air greedily. Free from the pulling current, he
swam to the edge of the lake and pulled himself out of the water, lying
on the ground and simply breathing.
Looking about him, the young ranger smiled slightly
at being able to see the trees of the nearby forest and the sun as it
reflected on the far mountains. The sounds of the surrounding
forests edged into his hearing as the roaring of the falls dissipated,
warring with the ringing in his head from the abuse he had taken.
He carefully shook the water out of his hair, aware that he was more
injured than he had originally thought as the slight movement made him
somewhat nauseous, threatening to throw his world into a tight
Aragorn pushed himself up onto his hands and knees,
suddenly aware that he could be in danger. He glanced to the top
of the falls, from here it looked like a long way down. He
remembered the orcs that had ambushed them and felt fear rise up in his
chest. He needed to get to shelter, out of sight. The
forest around him grew silent as he crept into the foliage at the edge
of the lake, warning him of danger as he moved deeper into the forests
and down the valley towards home. He had no idea who or what was
nearing the lake but he did not stay to find out. Stumbling into
the brush, he worked down the rift away from the falls and the
Behind him on the opposite shore several elves
stepped silently from under the cover of the trees. They were
searching the edges of the embankment, looking intently for any signs
of their missing friend. Two of them crossed at the small point
of the river and headed back towards the bottom of the falls.
They moved quietly, knowing that orcs were in the area and unwilling to
allow them to find out that they were indeed searching for
someone. One of the warriors knelt in the mud near the water’s
edge. It was apparent that something had drug itself out of the
lake and laid in the dirt, the faint impression of where a body had
lain could barely be seen and the footprints leading away from the
water were fresh and definitely human. The elf whistled to his
companions and motioned them over, pointing back into the forest behind
him. In moments the fleet-footed beings were tracking the human
back down the gorge.
Aragorn heard the soft sounds of his pursuers.
The thought never occurred to him that they could be family or friends
and he quickly concealed himself, his heart hammering in his
chest. His vision was blurred and his head pounded, making it
hard to concentrate. A twig to his left snapped softly and he
pulled a small dagger from his boot, holding it against his chest,
hoping that he would not be forced to use it. He was sure in the
shape he was in that he wouldn’t stand a chance against a single orc,
let alone a pack of them. Closing his eyes for just a moment he
tried to calm his heart and slow his breathing.
Moranuen followed the broken trail left by the
man. The twins had fanned out behind him, trying to locate where
their brother had hidden himself. Elrond had warned them that he
might have done just that. They had spotted orcs not far from
their location and their joy at discovering that Estel may still be
alive was dampened by the proximity of the enemy. They hoped to
find the human in time.
Moranuen stopped short and stared down at the base
of the trunk he had just rounded; something odd had caught his
eye. Hidden in the ferns that grew around the base of the large
tree, Aragorn had concealed himself. The tips of the man’s boots
could barely be seen; only the sharp eyes of the elf had even caught
the anomaly that gave away the dark leather. The others were too
far away to alert and Moranuen was afraid of what he may still
find. Kneeling quickly he carefully moved the fronds of the fern
away, exposing his friend’s hiding place.
Aragorn sat with his back against the large tree, an
elven dagger clenched in his hands, sleeping soundly. His face was
bruised and scratched from being drug along the bottom of the lake and
pressed against the granite. Blood from his split brow mixed with
the water that dripped from his hair and mingled in the dark stain that
was spreading across his tunic, the broken tip of the shaft just
protruding from the man’s right shoulder. The right sleeve of his
overshirt had been torn away and cuts and scrapes decorated the length
of his arm.
Moranuen breathed a silent sigh of relief and
reached towards his friend, gently grasping the human’s hand.
Aragorn started and woke, trying to move away from
the touch. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, only rest for a moment
and catch his breath. He jerked his hand free and thrust the blade
forward, grabbing his opponent by the back of the head and forcing the
weapon against the elf’s soft throat. Moranuen held very still,
his hands slowly closing around Aragorn’s as the human stared at him
with huge, frightened eyes.
“Estel, it’s all right, it is I, Mora.” The
elf smiled softly as the ranger allowed the blade to be taken from
him. His friend gently pushed him back, seating him on the forest
floor once more. “It is well. You’ll be just fine.” Tears
welled up in the elf’s eyes as the man smiled back at him. “We thought
you were dead.”
“Mora?” Aragorn looked around them into the forest;
he matched his voice to the elf’s, keeping it low and quiet. “Are
“No.” The elf shifted and leaned around the tree
searching for the others that had accompanied him. “Elladan and Elrohir
are here as well. Plus a few of the others that we couldn’t keep
from following us.”
“There are orcs here.” The ranger gripped his
friend’s arm, trying to listen.
“Yes, we know. We sent a few warriors to rout
them out and keep them away from this area until we found you.”
The elf pressed his fingers to his mouth and loosed a low
whistle. “We need to move quickly. Can you walk?”
The ranger nodded slowly and allowed the elf to help
him stand. He had just gained his footing when several elves stepped
from the surrounding trees.
Moranuen turned to the warriors, “Did you drive the
“Yes” an elf to his left reported, “They headed
north towards the pass. We will have no more trouble from them
today. How is Elrond's son?” He glanced at Aragorn who wove
unsteadily on his feet, reaching behind him to brace himself against
Elladan and Elrohir erupted from their right,
pressing through the warriors and converging on Moranuen and Estel.
“Estel.” Elrohir stepped past the other elves and
pulled his brother towards him, holding the human against him. “I
am so sorry.”
“No, it’s all right.” Aragorn murmured in his ear.
“Where were you last night?” The elf gently
pushed him back and began to look the ranger over, taking note of the
wounds he had sustained from his fall.
“I was sucked into a cave behind the falls. I didn’t
wake up until just this morning.” Aragorn winced and drew his breath in
quickly as Elrohir pushed the edges of the torn tunic away from his
He smiled as Elladan walked up near him. The
elf leaned over his twin and wrapped his hand around the back of the
young human’s head pulling his brother in close until their foreheads
barely touched. “Oh, Estel, I thought we had lost you.”
“I’m sorry.” The ranger apologized quietly. “I
didn’t mean to scare you.” He gripped the elf’s forearms with his
When Elrohir edged out from between them, Elladan
pulled Aragorn into a gentle embrace. “We have to get you home. Father
thinks you’re dead.”
Aragorn began laughing softly, his shoulders
hitching as he tried to catch his breath. His brothers mistook
the actions for tears and immediately became worried. “Estel what
is it? What’s wrong?” Elladan gently cupped the human’s
face with his hands and forced Aragorn to look at him.
The smile that spread across his countenance hurt in
a thousand places but he couldn’t help it as he looked on his
brothers. “Well we did hunt orcs, and I did get wounded and you
are going to take me back home to father in need of patching up
again.” He laughed at himself, causing the others to join him.
“Estel, you idiot.” Elladan pulled him away
from the tree and began to slowly walk him home, “only you would find
humor in a situation like this.”
Moranuen walked closely behind the brothers, the
warriors flanking them, still uneasy about the fact that orcs had been
so close to their home.
“I think father would take you any way we brought
you home right now, so long as you were alive.” Elrohir spoke up.
“Wait, where is Legolas?” Aragorn looked behind them
at the elves who were following, his step faltering as he realized his
friend was not among them. “He’s not...he didn’t... the orcs,
they didn’t, did they?” He could not bring himself to ask the question
and yet the absence of the prince caused fear to spike through his
heart as he stopped and searched the faces of his friends.
“NO! No.” Moranuen understood what he was asking
first, “No, Legolas is fine. His father sent for him and he had
to leave early this morning. He came with us searching for you as
far as he could before we parted, but he was unable to remain behind.”
“Why, what was wrong?” Aragorn’s fear did not abate,
it simply jumped tracks faster than his mind could process.
Elladan wrapped his arm around the ranger’s shoulder
and started the man walking again as he explained. “Nothing was wrong.
Mirkwood is fine and so is King Thranduil. But it is approaching
the Yèn, the leap year celebration, and in Mirkwood they honor
it with a high holiday. His presence was required.”
“Oh. That’s right, I forgot.” Aragorn answered
absently, trying to process everything and keep upright.
“He promised to return when it was over,” Elrohir
added encouragingly. “He’ll be back as soon as he can. Father had
to force him to go. He didn’t want to leave without finding you.”
“Yes, but it was important for him to be there. I
would not want him to miss something like that on my account.”
Elladan laughed softly, “Exactly what father told
him you would say.”
Aragorn stumbled and fell into Elrohir, his steps
becoming more unsure. He was safe now and his body was beginning
to betray him, making every tiny injury known. Weariness stole
over him, replacing the fear and adrenaline and he was very glad they
were nearly home.
Elrond stood in the courtyard. He hadn’t eaten
that morning and if not for the tea he had forced on himself last night
he wouldn’t have slept either.
Sending Legolas home had been one of the hardest
things he had to do. The young elf was visibly torn and tried to
reason his way out of it, but in the end he had consented, accepting
the fact that royalty did not always have the luxury of doing what
pleased them. He had promised to help search for Estel as far as
he could before the northern passageway split from the edge of the
With a heavy heart he had left Rivendell, promising
to return as quickly as possible.
It had been hours since the young elves had gone out
searching. Moranuen had insisted on accompanying the brothers and
had brought with him several of the warriors who lived in Rivendell to
help deal with the orcs.
Elrond found himself pacing back to the middle of
the courtyard, listening to the noises of the forest around him and yet
lost in a world of worry unto himself.
The sounds of people approaching reached the elven
ears and Elrond turned quickly towards the entry, stepping forward just
as the warriors passed through it. They bowed formally to their
lord and stepped aside. Elrond tried to gauge from their faces if
they had been successful but they passed quickly by him.
Moranuen walked in behind them and bowed low to the
elf lord. But he was unable to suppress his joy and when he stood up
the smile on his face betrayed him. “My lord, we found
him.” Moranuen glanced over his shoulder as Elrond’s three sons
walked slowly up behind him. “He was hiding just as you said he would
“I thought you were orcs.” Aragorn quipped lightly.
“We sound nothing like orcs!” Elrohir glared at him.
“No, but you smell like one.” Elladan glanced
at his twin over their brother’s head, his comment eliciting laughter
from the young human.
Their father however was oblivious to their banter,
his eyes fixed on the sight of his youngest. The human stepped
away from his brothers and Elrond quickly closed the distance between
them, pulling the ranger against him and holding him there, wrapped in
his arms. Elrond glanced at the twins and smiled at them, “Thank
you,” he whispered.
Aragorn allowed himself to be held and simply
relaxed against the tall, strong elf. He suddenly felt very young
as he leaned into his father’s embrace.
“I didn’t hunt them. I swear,” he whispered, his
voice muted by Elrond’s soft robe. “I didn’t even get the chance
to shoot back.”
“Right now, I wouldn’t even care if you had,
Estel.” The strong arms around him tightened slightly, “I am so
glad you are home.”
“Even though I am not quite in one piece?”
“Even though.” Elrond smiled and slowly released his
grip on the man, feeling the way the ranger was unsteadily remaining on
his feet. “I have never been more happy to see you than I am
today.” Elrond held his son against his side as they walked
slowly back into the house, it wouldn’t be long before the boy
collapsed, his energy was spent and he slumped sideways, allowing
himself to be directed down the hall to his room.
Aragorn vaguely remembered being led to his room and
helped onto his bed. His father was speaking to Elladan and
Elrohir and he heard Mora leave and return at one point, but the words
began to blur together and as his body slowly relaxed into the softness
beneath him. His consciousness released its death grip and he allowed
himself the luxury of falling asleep. The last thing he
remembered was his father's face looming into view above his own and
the softly spoken elven words, “Rest Estel. It will be all
right. Just rest.” He fell into sleep with a slight smile
on his face, simply glad to be home once more.